Kerala has recorded at least 13 norovirus infections in Wayanad district of Kerala, PTI reported. All 13 patients, who tested positive two weeks ago, are veterinary college students in Pookode.
The Kerala government has advised vigilance among and also stepped up measures to check the virus’ spread.
Norovirus infects people across all age groups. It is a bug akin to the diarrhoea-causing rotavirus. The outbreaks typically take place aboard cruise ships, and in dormitories, nursing homes, and other closed spaces.
The initial symptoms set in one or two days after exposure to the virus and cause vomiting and/or diarrhoea. Patients also feel nauseated, suffer from abdominal pain, headaches, and fever. In some extreme cases, loss of fluids can also cause dehydration.
Treatment for norovirus
While the disease is self-limiting, the virus takes quite a toll on the patient. The infection lasts two or three days in normal cases. Sufficient rehydration and rest can help most individuals who are very old or malnourished ride it out.
The virus is highly contagious, and can be transmitted through contaminated water, food, and surfaces. The primary route of the virus is oral-faecal. The virus has multiple strains and can infect an individual multiple times. Norovirus is resistant to up to 60°C heat and several disinfectants. As a result, merely heating food or chlorinating water may not kill the virus. It can also survive common hand sanitisers.
How common is norovirus?
According to the World Health Organization, the norovirus is the most common pathogen that causes outbreaks of gastrointestinal disease.
The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates that the virus caused about a fifth of every acute gastroenteritis case worldwide. Annually, 685 million cases are reported, with 200 million detected among children younger than five. Around 50,000 children die each year due to virus-induced diarrhoea.
Norovirus prevention and treatment
The most basic precaution to prevent norovirus infections is repeatedly using soap to wash hands after using the bathroom or changing diapers. Scrupulously washing hands before eating is also important. Surfaces must be disinfected with a solution of hypochlorite at 5,000 parts per million during outbreaks.
Real-time reverse transcription polymerase chain reaction is used to diagnose the disease, which doesn’t have any vaccines available for its prevention. Maintaining hydration is important in the disease’s acute phase. In some extreme cases, patients are intravenously administered rehydration fluids.